Restoring the Nutmeg’s Glory

Quintessential kitchen spices for cooking Aceh’s various culinary are arranged to become the object for photographers who took part in a photo contest at the Aceh Museum, Banda Aceh, May 15, 2017. The Aceh International Halal Food Festival will be held next August. TEMPO/ADI WARSIDI

The Ministry of Agriculture has recently allocated a 2.7 trillion rupiah budget to increase spice production. The goal is to restore the glory of past spices, including nutmeg. This paper will focus on nutmeg as a concrete example in highlighting this program.

The current actors in the nutmeg trade are different compared to the Dutch colonial era, when the nutmeg was in the golden age of world trade. The current actors are no longer merely farmers, states, and traders, but there are also agents or collectors, credit providers, seed providers, and transporters. They are all moving in a complex nutmeg supply chain, from land clearing, seeding, weeding, harvesting, fruit sorting, drying, to marketing. Along these lines, farmers are the most vulnerable. Ironically, almost 100 percent of the nutmeg comes from the contribution of smallholder plantations.

The Ministry of Agriculture (2016) notes that nutmeg plantation is dominated by community plantations covering an area of ​​169,103 hectares or 99.69 percent of the total area of ​​nutmeg plantations at national scale. In 2017, the estimated annual production from community plantations was 34,516 tons or 99.75 percent of national production. The annual export value of nutmeg was USD 64,398 million with an export volume of 11,549 tons. The data shows that nutmeg is a people’s plant. Nutmeg is not a plant that deliberately created by big companies with large-scale capital.

Inobu in collaboration with the AKAPe Foundation and the Regency Government of Fakfak has conducted polygon-based mapping of farmers’ land and comprehensive data collection from upstream to downstream of the nutmeg chain. In the past year, 246 nutmeg farmers have been mapped with 633.6 hectares of land area in three sub-districts and 20 villages. Some of the most fundamental issues found in this mapping process are as follows.

First, the difficulty of distinguishing male and female seeds is a unique problem in nutmeg breeding. Male seed does not bear fruit. The problem is that the nutmeg is known to be male or female after six years. Currently there are innovations available through grafting technique. Aceh has multiplied it, but it still needs to be tested and disseminated to other areas. Second, nutmeg cultivation is passed down from one generation to another and is supported by strong traditions. Farmers have to be driven so that the nutmeg farming system becomes more efficient.

Third, post-harvest management standard should begin to reflect global standards, which reflect the interests of consumers. Developed country consumers, such as the European Union, are increasingly meticulous concerning food security aspects. In recent years, many complaints of aflatoxin (cancer-triggering compound) level and extra chemical mixtures that suddenly appear on our nutmeg. This is strongly suspected to have originated from improper post-harvest handling. For this reason, the new standards need to be introduced to farmers.

Fourth, the trade chain is considerably long. This is detrimental to farmers. Moreover, nutmeg is susceptible to other material exposure. The local government needs to streamline the link. Warehouse development can be one solution.

The Ministry of Agriculture tries to respond to this problem with policies, such as Minister of Agriculture Decree Number 320/Kpts/KB.020/10/2015 on Guidelines for Production, Certification, Distribution, and Supervision of Nutmeg Seeds. All of these provisions lead to professional management of nutmeg by following agronomic, food safety, sustainability and legality standards.

The challenge is how to bridge the gap between the regulation and the social reality of traditional farmers. An intensive mentoring process is required so that policy standards are internalized into the local culture. This ensures not only compliance with the law, but also social continuity. In addition, the seed certification system must be able to prevent monopolistic practices so as not to result in additional costs for nutmeg farmers.

By Bernadinus Steni – Researcher in Yayasan Inobu

This article has been published on TEMPO and can be seen at the following link:


Restoring the Nutmeg’s Glory


Publication Year



Nutmeg, Spices, Fakfak.